Even the chooks are happy: how simple digital skills can enhance quality of life for seniors

Today’s seniors need essential digital skills for so many different aspects of everyday life – including being able to buy chicken feed online!
· 15 April 2024 · 4 minute read

Helping make common situations easier 

When Mary, 82 had to go to hospital for a small operation she was asked to complete, scan and send some online forms to prove her negative Covid test. Chris, 83, had just finished chemotherapy and wanted to apply for a passport so she could fly to Greece to visit her siblings. And Paul, 77, wanted to apply for his first debit card, so he could buy chicken feed from a supplier who’d stopped taking cash. 

These are just some of the ways seniors need help to participate in today's digital world.


Technology Cafés for Seniors

Many seniors have been turning to a new, life-enhancing digital advisory service called Technology Cafés for Seniors, which was launched in August 2023, by the University of the Third Age (U3A) with funding and resources from Telstra. 

The latest evolution of Telstra’s ever-popular Tech Savvy Seniors program, U3A’s Technology Cafés sprung from the idea that thousands of Australians are excluded from using online tools, simply because they lack the skills and confidence to use them.

Paul was a classic example of a gentleman who’s never owned a mobile, whose wife was always in charge of their communications,” says Glen Wall, U3A’s digital partnerships coordinator. “But with support from our mentor, he got his debit card and is now paying for all his groceries with it."


His chooks are particularly happy [now] that he’s finally caught up with modern technology!

- Glen Wall, U3A’s digital partnerships coordinator


Over 10 years of skill-sharing

Technology Cafés are the latest chapter in a decade-long drive by Telstra to bring practical technologies - and the skills to safely use them, into the lives of senior Australians.

Since Tech Savvy General Seniors launched in 2014, its training has reached 210,000 people over the age of 60. This bolsters our strategic commitment to build the digital skills of half a million people by 2025.

Customised training through local communities

Ten years on, support continues to expand through dozens of local councils, public libraries, First Nations groups, and disability services who are customising our training to help seniors learn.

Support varies from focused group sessions such as making and sharing videos on social media or using the Accessibility features on their devices, to one-on-one support for everyday problems in a U3A Technology Café.


Get Online Week 

As well as the Tech Savvy Seniors program, for the past two years Telstra has been the principal sponsor of Get Online Week – an annual event run by Good Things Foundation, which helps tens of thousands of Australians get online each year. 


Groups like U3A and Deaf Connect do so well in going back to basics and providing one-on-one mentoring to people with specific tech challenges. Because the mentors really care, they follow up with each person to check they’ve solved their issue – and that they’re continuing to have good experiences online.

- Heather Rea, Telstra’s Senior Advisor, Digital Inclusion.


Digital Inclusion for seniors

Digital inclusion is about helping all Australians to access digital technologies, so they can manage their health, access education, participate in cultural activities, organise finances, follow news and media, and connect with family and friends. 

Data from the 2023 Australian Digital Inclusion Index report confirms how important these programs and learning opportunities for seniors are, with digital inclusion remaining closely linked to age.   

While digital inclusion scores for seniors improved from 2021 to 2023, people aged 65-74 scored 12 points lower than the national average – and they were a further 24.6 points lower for people over 75, like Mary, Chris and Paul.   


Immediate benefits for skilled up seniors

While these scores are indicative of the work that still needs to be done to increase digital inclusion for seniors, Glen Wall’s stories show the opportunity for immediate and long-lasting rewards for those who are empowered to learn.


The seniors who come to us for help often come back with positive stories of how they’re still benefitting from their new skills.

- Glen Wall, U3A’s digital partnerships coordinator


Glen continues, “When Chris returned from Greece, she came back to another of our sessions to find out how to download and share photos from her holiday. Paul is now paying multiple bills with his debit card, and even using an online banking app. And Mary has recovered from her procedure and wants to help others learn about the scanning and signing software that was such a great help to her.”  

Big or small, learning new digital skills could make a positive impact to the quality of life of someone who’s digitally excluded.


Boost your own, or teach others digital skills

Read about digital inclusion and learn or teach new digital skills from different organisations, including our own Tech Savvy Seniors program. 

Tech Savvy Seniors program Free digital training to help you build the skills and confidence to use computers, tablets and smartphones. In English and 14 other languages.

Register for Get Online Week Good Things Foundation runs Get Online Week every October to help improve the skills and confidence of people who may be digitally excluded.

Find your local University of the Third Age (U3A) Lifelong learning, including digital skills, for people aged 50+ who are retired or semi-retired.

Visit the Australian Digital Inclusion Index The Index tracks and reports on digital inclusion across a range of ages and social groups. 

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